Thursday, August 18, 2022

Point of Order: No Prime Minister - School lunches are not free

It’s not the sort of accomplishment – some of us might think – that a Prime Minister would be proud to bray about.

The Government’s healthy lunches in school programme has ramped up to deliver a million free lunches to school kids every week.

The PM dished up these numbers:

* Savings for a family with two children at school of up to $62 a week, over $2000 a year

* Lunches now reaching 220,000 kids at 950 schools every school day

* A million lunches delivered a week, over 63 million in total to date

* 2,361 jobs created or retained

What should we make of this?

On the one hand, yes, it is noteworthy that the Government is delivering a million lunches to school kids every week.

But is it praiseworthy?

The PM calls them “free” lunches, opting for political patter that is apt to find favour with lefties. But free lunch

“… refers to a situation where there is no cost incurred by the individual receiving the goods or services being provided, but economists point out that even if something were truly free there is an opportunity cost in what is not taken.”

In this case, the critical question is: why must the government feed school children?

The answer can only reflect badly on the success (or otherwise) of its assault on poverty.

The Ardern Cabinet includes a Minister with the Child Poverty Reduction portfolio.

Ardern appointed herself to this job, presumably to underscore the importance she attaches to it.

Success – we suggest – will be reflected in an announcement that significantly fewer “free” lunches are being served in our schools.

Government money meanwhile is being pumped into an array of initiatives, some of them unabashedly designed to help eligible people on the basis of race.

Among the latest ones:

* Twenty-nine Pacific businesses around New Zealand have received up to $100,000 each from the Pacific Aotearoa Regional Enterprise Fund.

* $650,000 of funding has been provided “to support community-led initiatives which meet the vision of ‘Resilient and Healthy Pacific peoples’ in Goal 3 of the Pacific Aotearoa Lalanga Fou report, and the Ola Manuia Interim Pacific Health Plan.

* $6.5 million is being injected into a programme intended to grow and retain the numbers of Māori in the research, science and innovation workforce.

* The Government is increasing the number of funded clinical psychology internships and the payment interns receive on placement to support more students to choose clinical psychology as a career and address mental health workforce demand. Exact costs are unclear but by 2024 the government says it will have increased the number of interns to 40 every year, along with funding for the internship to nearly $60,000 a year.

* $4.6 million is being spent on commercialising a trawling innovation that enables most undersized fish to escape unharmed. The three-year $9.48 million programme is a partnership between Government, through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, Sealord Group, Moana New Zealand, Sanford and Plant & Food Research.

Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker had more news for the fishing industry in the form of the Government’s response to the Future of Commercial Fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand report.

The report calls for immediate evidence-based action and identified the first steps to be taken towards some longer-term recommendations.

The Government’s response phases the actions that can be delivered within the current regulatory framework.

Parker said significant action has already been taken by this Government that contribute towards a number of the recommendations. These include:

* Establishing the Oceans and Fisheries portfolio to support a more integrated approach to managing the oceans. The Government’s vision is to ensure the long-term health and resilience of ocean and coastal ecosystems, including the role of fisheries.

* Requiring cameras on up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels by 2024. This will cover up to 85 per cent of the total catch from inshore fisheries and focuses on those fisheries that pose the greatest risk to protected species.

* Progress to restore the health of the Hauraki Gulf, as part of Revitalising the Gulf This includes establishing 18 new marine protected areas and restricting trawl fishing to selected corridors.

* Law changes affecting commercial fishing, including setting the right incentives for fishers by tightening and simplifying rules around what fish must be landed and what can be returned to the sea. New graduated offences and penalties are also being put in place alongside the new rules for commercial fishers.

“These reforms, along with the development of an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP), are important to the commercial fishing sector as it moves to reduce the environmental effects of fishing and increase value for the sector.“

And let’s not forget the application of the government’s interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi:

“Fundamental to fisheries management is the Māori-Crown partnership. A key focus will be to further strengthen processes for tangata whenua input, including working with Iwi who wish to refresh Iwi fisheries plans.

“Other actions in the response will take longer and require further investment. There’s still a lot to do and this extensive work programme will span several years.”

Progress on this work will be reported to Cabinet by December 2024, so it can review the scope of changes and set actions to be undertaken from 2025.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton


DeeM said...

Like all socialist governments, success is measured by how many people rely on the State not on themselves.

A measure of failure in my book.

Anonymous said...

'free school lunch' is not only 'not free' (as it is paid by taxpayers), but also results in waste (as the supplier does not care about quality or taste and kids are happy to reject what's on offer). it would be much better if poor parents are paid a fixed amount they can use to buy kids what they actually want and will eat.